It’s been a hard few weeks for historic preservationists. Frank Lloyd Wright’s L.A. icon, the Ennis House, is still for sale, after 10 months on the market and a $4.5 million price cut. (Meanwhile, Illinois preservationists race the clock to save another, less-known Wright home.) One of the only buildings New York Five member and influential Cooper Union Dean John Hejduk ever built is under fire by “improvement”-minded owners in Berlin. On a macro scale, funding for historic preservation programs Save America’s Treasures, Preserve America, and the National Heritage Areas program is going to be cut in 2011.
But maybe the most depressing example to make the rounds lately is photographer Chris Mottalini’s project, “After You Left, They Took it Apart.” The photo essay documents three houses by the brutalist master Paul Rudolph in varying states of decay just days before they were demolished completely. Rudolph sighed in posthumous relief when his much-maligned Yale School of Art and Architecture was lovingly restored in 2008, but his houses weren’t so lucky. Mottalini has since found and photographed over a dozen other Rudolph projects, including some that even the Rudolph Foundation didn’t know existed. Those other houses aren’t on the chopping block, and one can only hope that thanks to Mottalini’s work, they never will be.
(One glimmer of hope: Louis Kahn’s Trenton, New Jersey, bath house is finally being restored, after some 25 years on the National Register of Historic Places.)